Incontinence in Seniors: How to Approach This Delicate Topic
When it comes to providing senior care to a family member or loved one, there are so many different challenges and obstacles that can come your way. One of the many, very delicate, challenges that so many caregivers today face has to do with incontinence. It is something that is extremely common in seniors today, impacting nearly half of older adults, but it is also something that is difficult for both seniors and their family caregivers to discuss.
Avoiding the topic of incontinence will not help anyone involved. It is important to be open, honest and supportive regarding this topic so that your loved one doesn’t have to feel stress or ashamed about their incontinence. With this in mind, here are a few tips on handling incontinence in seniors and on discussing this private topic with your loved one.
- Make a visit to the doctor. Just because incontinence is common in seniors, it doesn’t mean it is normal. If incontinence has just started, your loved one should get a full examination from their doctor to see if there is a more serious issue at the root of the problem and if there is a treatment that can help.
- Some forms of incontinence can be caused by medications or other medical conditions
- There are treatments for incontinence that include medications and surgeries. Women with pelvic organ prolapse can be fitted with a pessary to reduce leakage.
- Dress your loved one for success. Many times, incontinence has a lot to do without being able to hold it long enough. Help your loved one dress in pants that are easy to get on and off to make the process of using the bathroom easier.
- Be prepared. If you are looking after a senior with incontinence, be prepared with backups, so if an accident happens, you don’t have to make it seem like a big deal. Carry a bag with incontinence briefs and a change of clothes while you are out and about together. That way, if an accident does happen, you can remedy the issue right away.
- Limit caffeine. Coffee, tea, and soda can all make bladder issues worse.
- Be empathetic. It is not your loved one’s fault that they are losing control of their bodily function and it can be very stressful. Approach the situation with patience and be empathetic to the situation so your loved one doesn’t feel more anxious or stressed about the situation.
- Be matter-of-fact about the situation. This can help your loved one with shyness or embarrassment regarding their incontinence. If they do have an accident, tell them not to worry, and that it happens to a lot of people. Downplaying the situation can help manage stress and may even help lessen the number of accidents they have due to anxiety.
- Make sure to dress their bedding appropriately. Many times, accidents happen in the middle of the night and it can make your loved one’s bedding uncomfortable or even unsafe for them to sleep in. Invest in special bed pads for incontinence to make sure they still have a safe and sanitary sleeping environment.
The more you can do to help your loved one feel comfortable and open regarding incontinence, the better. If you are able to discuss the issue freely and help your loved one get the support and care they need regarding their incontinence, it can help make your care situation better for everyone involved.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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